Privacy is a tricky beast and one which Google's latest strategy does nothing to simplify.
Today the search monolith has updated its user data retention policy by adjusting the shelf life of its cookies. These tiny files which store an individual's user preferences on their machine (site history, language, etc) will now auto delete after a two year period. They had been set to auto delete after 2039.
But there's a but and it's a huge but, the kind formed from a lifetime eating nothing but caramel coated candyfloss: Google cookies will automatically renew their two year lifespan if any of its services are used during this two year period. Surprise!
So despite coming under pressure to reduce the timescales that it retains user data Google has, in effect, extended it indefinitely. This is because it is quite frankly impossible to avoid Google services for two years if you regularly use the Internet. iGoogle, Froogle, Gmail, Google Maps, heck even YouTube all fall under the Google umbrella and that doesn't even cover the raft of Google searches built into websites (we have one ourselves).
All of which makes Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, seem rather disingenuous when he said in a statement: "After listening to feedback from our users and from privacy advocates, we've concluded that it would be a good thing for privacy to significantly shorten the lifetime of our cookies."
Pull the other one Peter.
Consolations? Cookies can be manually deleted at any time in browser preferences and well... every other leading search engine is just as bad...